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Banking: Standard Chartered in the dock over Iran transactions

This week Standard Chartered, the UK bank which sponsors Liverpool Football Club, was accused by lawmakers of breaking laws across the pond in the US by facilitating money-laundering transactions with Iran.

The charges are serious, as the US currently operates a strict sanctions embargo against the Iranians, which it suspects of trying to develop nuclear weapons.

The US were so concerned that New York banking regulator Benjamin Lawsky went public with the explosive charge against the UK bank, threatening to cancel the bank's New York State banking licence, which would effectively prevent it from trading in dollars. The threat was sufficiently serious to wipe 25% off the value of Standard Chartered in one day.

The move has incensed Standard Chartered, who yesterday enlisted the help of the Bank of England Governor Mervyn King who sought clarification from US authorities on the matter.

"One regulator, but not the others, has gone public while the investigation is still going on," said Mr King in a statement, effectively singling out Mr Lawsky as a rogue regulator looking for the limelight.

"This is a case about Iran, money laundering, and national security," was the soundbite Lawsky used to describe the case.

"We will continue to work closely with our law-enforcement partners, both federal and state, in this effort. No bank, big or small, foreign or domestic, is above the law," he added.

Mr King drew unfavourable comparisons between the handling of this case and that of the Libor scandal which rocked Barclays Bank earlier in the year. In that case he said law-enforcement agencies had cooperated to complete the investigation before releasing coordinated reports.

"I think all the UK authorities would ask is that the various regulatory bodies that are investigating the particular case try to work together and refrain from making too many public statements until the investigation is completed," Mr King said.

Source:

Standard Chartered begins fightback on Iran allegations (Reuters)